The widely published statement by the County Manager fails to address the widespread substantive criticism of the Public Spaces Master Plan methodology and results. The Manager’s statement also contains numerous erroneous assertions which have prompted both Parks4everyone and the Arlington Civic Federation to issue responses.
Author: The Arlington Way
Earlier this year, Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz made a public apology for a major road disruption on Columbia Pike, affecting businesses and angering residents, who were never told of the work. Only after a public uproar and media reports, did he make an apology.
It’s dumbfounding that notifying the public about disruptions to infrastructure impacting businesses and residents would be a difficult task. But it seems that is case for Mark Schwartz.
A Columbia Heights post on Nextdoor is another example of his mismanagement.
Schwartz isn’t making apologies just for his errors in alerting public about disruptions to infrastructure, he has made many other public apologies over policies including another one this year when Arlington staff was ordered to remove BLM chalk on Juneteenth.
Given the frequency of apologies and that he only doles them out when the media reports on them, it’s clear that he doesn’t learn his lesson and that these apologies are insincere.
Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz rarely misses an opportunity to place his personal short-term agenda ahead of Arlington’s long-term strategic interests. But a November 12 memorandum that Schwartz sent to the County Board reaches a new low even for small-minded Schwartz.
Over 1,825 days ago, the Community Facilities Study Group recommended that Arlington adopt a long-term public facilities plan locating new school seats and other new public facilities like parks, fire stations, and stormwater infrastructure, at specific sites. After prolonged delays, a new commission—the Joint Facilities Advisory Commission (JFAC)—was created to help develop such a plan. Schwartz quickly intervened, successfully pleading with the County Board for JFAC to be given a series of short-term planning assignments on items like the Buck and Virginia Hospital Center properties, thereby diverting JFAC from its primary mission: long-term, county-wide public facilities planning.
In recent months, JFAC finally began to show signs that it might be on a path to creating the critically important, but MIA, long-term public facilities plan. Re-enter Schwartz to try once again to side-track this vitally needed plan.
Schwartz strikes again
At a time when COVID-19 makes long-term planning for Arlington’s future even more important than it was before, short-term-thinking Schwartz’s latest petulant memorandum to the County Board again tries to deflect us from the strategic thinking Arlington desperately needs. We just can’t afford to do it, according to Schwartz, because:
“The work in [JFAC’s] outline, to be done well, and to be accurate and thorough, requires staff from virtually every department to be involved, including department heads.
“Such a plan requires subject matter expert advice, along with citizen input beyond the JFAC members. In addition, the outline focuses on areas that I see as squarely within my purview as Manager.”
No shit, Sherlock! If you had been doing your job right, instead of spending years preventing JFAC from doing its job, Arlington would now have the long-term public facilities master plan it desperately needs.
It’s important to note that the public has not been consulted about any of the policy suggestions floated by Schwartz, including any radical long-term permanent shift to virtual classrooms. Whether APS or parents will accept that result is not even considered in the memo. But make no bones about it, yet another “pause” to locate school locations, and JFAC’s diversion to review virtual classrooms will cover up Schwartz’s own failure to plan for brick and mortar schools up until now, and will result in no other option but virtual learning.
Similarly Schwartz’s suggestion that level of service reviews for facilities, including those for infrastructure and parks, are exclusively under his purview is designed to shield Schwartz from any independent critical thinking for how facilities can be used more efficiently or removed from Arlington’s exclusive management through things like partnerships with neighboring jurisdictions.
Mark Schwartz does not have the strategic vision required of the Chief Executive Officer of a $1.5 billion enterprise. The County Board should replace him with someone who does.
This article appeared in InsideNova Letter: Arlington government again tries to marginalize Green Valley | Letters To Editor | insidenova.com
Editor: There is a new road map for the “Arlington Way.” The county has been paving this path for some time, but it came careening through the Green Valley community on Sept. 15, when the County Board voted 5-0 to instruct us on what we may or may not discuss about a multi-million-dollar public project.
In essence, our local elected officials told our community to stay in its lane.
A new facility for ART bus maintenance and operations will be built in Green Valley, and the community did not object. However, the Green Valley Civic Association would like to discuss site optimization, environmental and other issues for the project.
These issues have merit and deserve discussion. Our local government thinks otherwise.
The staff presentation said, “we will engage the community as we move forward.” The slides to accompany the statement note a “first community-engagement checkpoint,” then a second one and then a final “checkpoint.” Staff says “we’ll go back to the community so they can see where we are in the process.”
Does this sound like dialogue, involvement or engagement?
The staff report to the County Board determines what Green Valley may say about the project. The county writes it will “gather feedback from the community on the aesthetic elements of the buildings and perimeter treatments.”
Remarkably, the chair of the County Board took this a step further, noting that only professional people should be involved with the details of this project. Assuming residents of Green Valley might get “frustrated” by these “complex” matters and that we should “stay in the areas [that] are most appropriate” is disrespectful at best. It shines a particular distain for Green Valley and for democratic processes.
This contempt for public participation should be an affront to all Arlingtonians. Send a message this election cycle. You can raise your voice by writing in your name on the ballot for a spot on the County Board. The incumbent will surely be re-elected, but this is a less “complex” way for all of us to be heard and respected.
Robin Stombler, Arlington
The County’s Shell Game: How to “add” more parks, while residents simultaneously lose access to green space.
On September 16, Arlnow had a comment by a frequent contributor:
$4 Million to Heirs Annually • 7 hours ago The Bankruptcy Trustee has a filed a motion to dismiss Dorsey’s bankruptcy case for his failure to file a modified proposed plan. A previous Court order required Dorsey to file a modified proposed plan that would include $5,893 owed to his mortgage company for failure to pay his May and June 2020 mortgage payments. A hearing is scheduled for October 8th.
Background: Dorsey refinanced his mortgage after filing for bankruptcy but then failed to make at least four payments (Feb., March, May, and June 2020) although the bankruptcy repayment plan that Dorsey submitted to the Court stated that Dorsey would pay his monthly mortgage payments. His mortgage holder filed a motion to start foreclosure. To avoid foreclosure proceedings, Dorsey and the mortgage company filed a consent order (approved by the Court) stating that Dorsey would filed a new proposed plan that would include $5,893 that Dorsey had failed to pay for his mortgage. Dorsey never filed the new proposed plan required in the Court’s order. On February 25, 2020, Dorsey loaned his campaign $4,300.
How does this happen? Christian Dorsey voted just last night in the recessed County Board Meeting for a $3.5M design of an ART bus barn, authorized the sale of $172.32 General Obligation Public Improvement Bonds and $31 million of Industrial Development Authority (IDA) Revenue Bonds. This was just one night. Even when community members provided plenty of feedback on why not to move forward with all three of these decisions, Dorsey joined the unanimous votes.
As a reminder, Dorsey did vote himself a pay raise this year of $89,851 for his part time government job. It just feels weird to have someone who can’t pay their bills, spending tax payer money with such flagrant abandon.
Unfortunately, until he is up for reelection, it seems like Dorsey is safely ensconced in Arlington power.
On Friday September 11, we showed up at Doctor’s Run Park and there were three Arlington County maintenance vehicles pulled onto the grass. The team was busy mowing and blowing and edging. Our park is very well used and we tend to have a lot of garbage from the local 7-11 and lack of garbage cans in the area. We love this park; it is where our neighborhood children get out of one of the many garden apartments and can run after a day of virtual learning. It is a meeting point for many different cultures with usually 5-6 different languages being spoken at any one time and the kids often translating and building bridges for the adults.
The next morning, Saturday, September 12, we showed up at the park with our donuts. All of the “ground maintenance” work done yesterday was strewn across the park. Is this really considered acceptable? When we go to the North Arlington parks for play dates, we don’t see this.
In “Knock Down the House” candidates took a critical look at what was happening in their Democratic districts and said, “this is messed up and our communities are not being served fully. “Knock Down the House” articulates what is happening in Arlington.
Continuing to push a program like the car free diet during this COVID health emergency is completely tone deaf.
As the Pandemic continues, Arlington Elected Officials Drift into Opaqueness, Closed Door Sessions, and Lack of Public Review.